"This world has been connected..." a nefarious voice whispered into Hardaz's ear.
Hardaz stood on a grassy hill overlooking the devastation that had befallen High Serath, once again returned to ash. The sounds of anguished wailing and the smell of congealing blood were fresh upon the air. Black clouds swirled angrily above the city.
"Tied to the darkness...soon to be completely eclipsed..."
"Who are you? Why have you come here?" Hardaz choked, tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched the shadow-beings slaughter his people from the hilltop.
The night sky was filled with fire. The gates of Karkien had spilled forth their hosts of shadows and grotesque monstrosities to destroy the land of Venera.
"There is so very much to learn... You understand so little... One who knows nothing can understand nothing." The whisper sounded like the malignant shadow of a human voice, a dark memory of something long ago forgotten.
"I have to go down there and help them! Everyone is dying." Hardaz vociferated in a sorrowful tone.
"A meaningless effort... You still have a purpose to serve..." Intimated the mysterious entity.
"What is there left to live for? The world has been destroyed! The least I can do is die fighting to defend those that I love."
"They cast you out... They said that you were broken... And you still wish to defend them... A foolish sentiment of false morality..."
"But... I can't just leave all of these people to suffer."
"There are others... Escaped across the sea... The Emperor of the Vasil... And the Last of the Adrazi..."
"You are lying! The Adrazi are dead. If they were still alive, they would be here protecting us!" Hardaz spouted, becoming enraged.
"Believe what you will... Hope is lost here... These people are doomed... Across the sea is where your destiny lay..." the voice began to fade.
"But where do I go?!" Hardaz followed the sound of the voice, but it continued to fade from his hearing.
"The Herald is calling..." the voice finally faded into nothingness.
"Wait!" Hardaz listened for a moment, no sound came but the crackling of the flames.
Hardaz collapsed to his knees and wailed into his hands, not knowing what to do. Suddenly, a sound broke the silence. From the harbor, the trumpeting of a ship's signal horn ripped through the dead air. Hardaz jumped up in surprise, he was certain that all of the ships had been burned; but one remained, its white sails glistening in the distance.
"Of course, the mail-carrier! The RMS Herald!" he rejoiced, starting in a sprint towards the Port District.
The ship sped towards the docks, firing its horn. A crowd of survivors began forming at the end of the dock that the ship was heading toward, appearing out of the ruins of the city. Their numbers were pitifully few, only a dozen or so.
Hardaz sprinted between burning buildings and jumped over wrecked merchant carts and bodies as quickly as his legs could carry him. He turned a corner, nearing the gates of the port district, but stopped in his tracks. He slammed his back up against a wall, taking cover from what lay around the corner. Standing there, in the main gate of the Port District was one of the shadow creatures that had spilled out of the gates when they had first opened, it appeared to be standing guard. It took a shape that appeared vaguely human, but it had the consistency of a cloud of shadows, with only two blood-red points of light denoting where its eyes were. It carried a pitted black-metal sword, stained with the blood of recent victims. Hardaz stood there for a moment, weighing his options. He looked around for anything he could possibly use as a distraction; climbing up the cobblestone wall of the building just adjacent to him, there was a tin drainpipe.
Hardaz moved silently toward the pipe and climbed it deftly. He arrived on the roof, what he deduced to be a church from the tall steeple at the front-end. Moving slowly and carefully, setting one foot at a time, he moved across the precipice of the church's ceramic-tiled roof. Out of nowhere, a ball of fire crashed down from the sky into the steeple of the church. The shadows must have realized that a ship remained and began their fiery bombardment again. The creature below him looked up as the church steeple collapsed into the building; its red eyes met with Hardaz's green eyes. The creature let out a blood-curdling screech and lifted off into the air, riding a cloud of black smoke. Reacting instantaneously, Hardaz unsheathed his bow and let fly an arrow, nailing the creature directly between the two red points of light. It slammed into the church's side wall, spraying debris everywhere and causing the structure to tremble. Sensing the imminent collapse, Hardaz jumped and took off in a sprint towards the docks. Behind him, the building collapsed on top of the shadow creature, which let out a final pitiful shriek as it was crushed.
The RMS Herald let out a final bellow of its horn as Hardaz turned the corner to the waterfront. All of the people had boarded and the ship was pulling up its gangplank as Hardaz sprinted up the dock towards it. He jumped up on the side of the ship and slid into one of the side-hatches.
The ship backed away from the dock and dropped their full sails. The ship sped out of the harbor as fast as the winds would take them as balls of fire splashed into the water around them and reduced the city to rubble.
Hardaz jumped his way up the stairs to the main deck, where the survivors were huddled in a circle, surrounded by overwhelmed-looking sailors. One of them spotted Hardaz as he appeared from belowdecks.
"Anovva one? Oo the bloody 'ell are you?" The burly sailor spouted, sounding tense.
"Does it matter? I'm here to help show me where to go." Hardaz offered.
"Listen, stranger, we were just on a post run when this whole fing happened, we weren't expectin' no refugees to rescue. We only 'ave enough supplies fo' abou' a monf and only fo' the crew." the sailor said, frustrated.
"Then we will ration what we have. We have a long journey ahead of us."
"I don' know wha' you're on abou'. We can take you as far as Adanedhel, tha's our next stop."
"I don't think you understand the magnitude of the situation. This is not just happening here, this is happening everywhere. There is no Adanedhel anymore. I need to speak to the captain immediately." Hardaz said in a rush.
All of the crew suddenly looked shocked, several took off their caps. They began whispering nervously amongst themselves. The burly man who was talking to Hardaz looked unmoved.
"An' 'ow do you know tha'?" he asked suspiciously, with a touch of uneasiness in his voice.
"Karkien has connected to our world. Their agents will kill all of us without discrimination, our only option is to escape to the lands across the sea." Hardaz commanded. The sailor's demeanor changed and without a word, ran off to get the captain.
Hardaz exchanged words with the captain, who was also difficult to convince, but was eventually swayed when the ship passed a village on the coast that was in flames; its villagers jumping into the water and swimming desperately towards the ship, only to be dragged underwater by the shadows. They set out across the sea.
After a week of travel, they began to run low on rations. Hardaz fashioned a fishing rod out of some available materials and provided what little food he could for the denizens of the RMS Herald. By the second week, several of the survivors and crewmen had died of their injuries or sickness. On the third day of the third week, the helmsman rung his alarm bell and cried "Land ho!" All of the remaining survivors and members of the crew rushed to the edge of the ship to catch a glimpse of the land in the distance, but Hardaz's gaze was elsewhere. Behind them, dark clouds were stirring, gaining on them fast.
Before long, they were in a swirling gale that tossed the ship to and fro. All around them the waves crashed and the winds whistled. Torrential rain buffeted the deck of the ship.
"Get the survivors below-decks!" Hardaz yelled as loud as he could.
The crewmen scrambled to get all of the survivors locked below the deck. Hardaz readied his bow, suspicious of the sudden maelstrom. Lightning and thunder flashed and crashed all around the ship, and dark shapes were silhouetted by the sudden brilliance.
"They've followed us here!" Hardaz yelled, aiming his bow at one of the creatures and letting an arrow fly.
The creature crashed beneath the waves. Terrible screeches surrounded the ship. The shadowy forms landed on the deck and engaged the sailors in a heated melee. Steel met steel and waves smashed over the sides of the ship, spraying the combatants with cold salt water. Several of the sailors were cut down by the shadows until it was just Hardaz, the Captain, and the burly sailor fighting back-to-back guarding the hatch to the lower deck. A lightning bolt slammed into the main mast, the wood shattered and splintered. The mast crashed into the ocean, the sparks from the explosion had set the deck on fire. Hardaz managed to cut down a few of the shadows and rushed to cut the rigging so that the mast would not drag the ship underwater. Hardaz worked feverishly to cut the lines free, defended by the sailors, and eventually got the the last one. As he cut it, he heard one of the sailors yell his name, but it was too late. One of the lines had wrapped itself around Hardaz's leg; the mast lurched and began to slide into the ocean, taking Hardaz with it.
He splashed down into the briny deep, being tossed to and fro by the raging currents, grabbing on to a floating piece of flotsam from the ship, he watched as it was dragged under the waves, hearing the screams of the innocents drowning within; he went unconscious...
He was awoken on the sunny shore of a mysterious land by a tremor. The ground shook violently. Hardaz arose from his unconscious state and steadied himself on a fallen log, he was surrounded by debris from the shipwreck, alone. He grieved for the loss of life and cried at the memories of his lost loved ones. Part of him had hoped that he would have died in that wreck. On the other side of the jungle he could see the smoke of chimneys rising above the canopy. He set off into the viridian depths, determined to find the source of the dark voice and whether there was any truth to its cryptic words.
The mysterious voice that spoke to Hardaz upon the hilltop turned out to be that of Zekiliim, the Zurgator. Zekiliim believed that Hardaz could be turned to his cause and help him hunt down the remaining survivors of the Venera Crisis. Zekiliim was sorely mistaken, not expecting Hardaz to become recruited by one of the surviving Lukaza into their order. Hardaz later slayed Zekiliim with his sword, Athelas, deep within the bowels of a Volcano very shortly before the Karkien Decimation swept across the land.